Out of Now
The Lifeworks of Tehching Hsieh
384 pp., 10 x 13 in, 800 color illus.
- Published: December 19, 2008
- Publisher: The MIT Press
A visually stunning documentary record and critical account of Tehching Hsieh's epic performance works.
In the vibrant downtown Manhattan art scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Taiwanese-American artist Tehching Hsieh made a series of extraordinary performance art works. Between September 1978 and July 1986, Hsieh realized five separate one-year-long performance pieces in which he conformed to simple but highly restrictive rules throughout each entire year. Through the course of these lifeworks, Hsieh moved from a year of solitary confinement in a sealed cell to a year in which he punched a worker's time clock in his studio every hour on the hour to a year spent living without shelter in Manhattan to a year in which he was tied by an eight-foot rope to the artist Linda Montano and finally to a year of total abstention from all art activities and influences. These works were unparalleled in terms of their use of physical difficulty over extreme durations and in their absolute conception and enactment of art and life as simultaneous processes. In 1986 Hsieh announced that he would spend the next thirteen years making art but not showing it publicly. When this “final” lifework—an immense act of self-affirmation and self-erasure—came to a close at the turn of the Millennium, he tersely and enigmatically said that during this time he had simply kept himself alive. For many contemporary artists Hsieh is something of a cult figure. After years of near-invisibility, Hsieh has now collaborated with the British writer and curator Adrian Heathfield to create this meticulous and visually arresting documentary record of a contemporary artist's work-—in this case, the complete body of Tehching Hsieh's performance projects from 1978 to 2000. Not only is this the first extensive critical account of these unusual works, it is also the first to discuss their significance for art history, visual and cultural studies, and the practice of performance.
Life is brought to life (again, again, again) in its withdrawal—as routine ecstasy, in erotic privation, through flesh's serial vacation of now, which makes now urgent. This urgency, given yet again in Tehching Hsieh's and Adrian Heathfield's collaboration, again and again and uncontainably held in your hand right now, is Out of Now.
Fred Moten, Professor, University of California, Riverside
An aesthetic object in itself, Out of Now is a unique contribution to the field that blurs distinctions between theory and practice and offers a compelling exploration of the relationship between performance and the act of writing about performance.
The Drama Review
Out of Now traces the practice of one of the great artists of our time. With immense courage, Tehching Hsieh revolutionized performance art: while many were sprinting, he did marathons. Hsieh anticipated our times, in that he made time his medium. This impressive and beautifully written book offers the first comprehensive study of an outstanding body of work. An extraordinary performance!
Hans Ulrich Obrist, Co-director of Exhibitions and Programmesand Director of International Projects, Serpentine Gallery
Tehching Hsieh has created a profound body of 'lifeworks' that integrate the live with the aesthetic, producing hybrid experiences that question the very nature of what we call 'art.' This brilliant book, which includes documentation and smart, poetic, andhistorically inflected writing by Heathfield is an invaluable record of Hsieh's work. A unique commentary on the writing of the histories of art and performance.
Amelia Jones, Professor and Pilkington Chair,Art History and Visual Studies, University of Manchester
The visual and emotional yield of Hsieh's works is overpowering: the 365-image photo-essay of the year that Hsieh and artist Linda Montano spent tethered to one another with an eight-foot-long rope tells a story as rich, engrossing and rewarding as an epic novel. The stark, basic design wisely lets the evidence do the dazzling.